Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly have opened up on the difficulties partnering Max Verstappen as team-mates in Formula 1 amid Sergio Perez’s struggles this year.

Perez has endured a troublesome third campaign alongside Verstappen, winning only two races to the Dutchman’s 17 and currently languishing 266 points behind.

Red Bull signed Perez for 2021, making him the first driver to be signed by the Austrian side outside of its illustrious development programme since Mark Webber in 2007.

The Mexican replaced Alex Albon, who had been promoted midway through his rookie season in 2019 but experienced a torrid year in 2020 that resulted in him being dropped.

Recounting his year-and-a-half spent alongside Verstappen, Albon said in Mexico: “I think it’s always tough. I think it’s tough to go against one of the best drivers on the grid and call it a generational talent to some extent, so it wasn’t easy my year and I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Pierre in his year.

“But we’re drivers, you know, we go through tough times and it makes us stronger. And yeah, there’s not too much to say.

“I think he’s [Perez] handling quite well, at least from what I see. So, like I said, I’m not looking over my shoulders too much and seeing see what goes on down the paddock.”

(L to R): Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing with team mate Alexander Albon (THA) Red Bull Racing. 09.07.2020. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 2, Steiermark Grand Prix, Spielberg, Austria, Preparation Day.

Albon had initially swapped places with Gasly, who was demoted back to Red Bull’s second-string outfit after being trounced by Verstappen during the first half of 2019.

The Frenchman, now at Alpine, sympathised with Perez’s current predicament, citing how the entire Red Bull operation is built fully around maximising Verstappen’s talent.

Gasly added: “Never easy to go against probably the best driver at the moment, in combination with the best team, and a team that is fully around him. So it’s obviously a tough job.

“I mean, Checo did very well at the start of the season. Obviously, for some reasons, it’s not going as well now – reasons we don’t know. But, you know, I just wish him the best.”

Having ended up on the sidelines, Albon returned with Williams last year and has rebuilt his reputation by emerging as a valuable team leader for the Grove squad.

The Anglo-Thai driver has scored all but one of Williams’ 28 points so far in 2023 to place the legendary British side on course to finish seventh in the Constructors’ Championship.

Meanwhile – after excelling with the Faenza team for several years, including scoring a memorable victory at Monza in 2020 – Gasly earned a move to Alpine for this season.

Amid a tumultuous year for the Enstone camp, Gasly earned a podium in Zandvoort and is currently on course to outscore team-mate and compatriot Esteban Ocon.

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